Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Monday, October 29, 2007

Field Report: The Caucus Club

The Caucus Club may seem an usual restaurant for exploration as a gay spot, but its inclusion is really almost mandatory, for reasons I'll get to in a minute.

The Caucus Club is one of Detroit's old-time classics. It opened in 1952 and pretty much hasn't changed an iota since. Located on the ground floor of the fabulous Penobscot Building (south entrance), it has a clubby, piano bar kind of vibe. It actually does, in fact, have a piano, although I believe it generally goes unplayed.

I've been to the Caucus Club only a handful of times, the first this spring on the same night I went to the last Sass dance party and most recently for lunch today. It has all the nostalgic appeal you'd hope, including vintage 40's light fixtures over the tables in the bar, circular booths, waiters who have been there since the beginning of time. And the food is really great - since Union Street cut their awesome Salade Nicoise from the menu (I hate them now) I've been looking for something equally good, and the one here possibly exceeds it. Not to mention the espresso is brewed on a stovetop espresso pot, not a machine brewer.

And let's not forget cocktails! The drinks are great, old school, and they have all the top shelf brands you expect and deserve. There is something about the vibe, though, that demands minimally-diluted liquor, so don't bother with anything but a martini or a bullshot.

The clientele, at least at lunch, is typically downtown business-y. Not in the way the Detroit Athletic Club is, but more in the real downtown worker way. I can only illustrate this by describing the tables near me today, which included a late-middle-aged businessman with a slightly younger woman, a guy in a bowtie, and a trio of middle-aged chain smoking women. No pretense, no excessive formality, just real Detroit folks who won't eat at Jimmy John's.

As for the gay, well there weren't any other gay people there that I was aware of during any of my visits. But the Caucus Club holds a very special spot in gay history because it is the place where Barbra Streisand got her first break. As their website states:

"The Caucus Club has had many celebrities cross its door. The most famous would have to be Barbra Streisand who sang in the back room in 1961. Brought here from New York, the Caucus Club was one of Streisand first paying jobs. She was young and inexperienced performer. "Watching her was like watching the first brush strokes in a picture, she was creating herself," said owner Les Gruber. Streisand left Detroit for an appearance on the Tonight Show with Jack Parr, and the rest is history!"

History indeed. If you are looking for a place to go with friends that has charm, class, character and is a part of your gay heritage, I cannot recommend this place enough. It is, frankly, ripe for a gay takeover as a swanky little piano bar. All we'd need is a decent performer. Hey Barbra ... ?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Real Ugly Betty

It's Halloween and, as usual, I am completely unprepared for the myriad of costumed events on the docket. So it looks like I'm dressing up as the Ghost of Halloween Past and recycling a costume from two years ago (which, in my defense, didn't really go out to parties as much as it was used to help a friend pass out candy at her house in Grosse Pointe). And that means it's time to dig out some videos from the vaults.

Betty Butterfield is the creation of
Chuck Knipp, a drag comedian best known for his controversial yet totally hilarious character Shirley Q. Liquor, a poor black Southern woman, which he performs in blackface. That really seems to be asking for trouble, you think? He has a couple cd's available - you can check out Shirley's website here - and as a special bonus for Supergay Detroit readers, I've uploaded the funniest sketch ever - the Preflight Checklist for Ebonics Airways, for your listening pleasure.

Betty Butterfield is a character he developed later, in the format of a video blog. She is a poor white Southern woman who discusses the trials of her life and her search for a church she can live with. It's one of those things where the more you watch it the more you get it, however I am not going to condemn you to an hour of watching Betty Butterfield videos (although you can find many on YouTube, or at the unofficial Betty Butterfield website

I'll be on the prowl as Betty this Halloween, so be sure to say hi if you see me. And with that, I present a primer course in the passion of Betty Butterfield.

OK, that's enough of that taking up space on here - I've uploaded more onto a playlist over on my YouTube account. Check them out!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Well hello!

Well, since I won the prestigious Metro Times People's Pick award I have obviously been busy beyond words. Um, yeah. Actually I've just been coming down from a really crazy time with work and so I beg a thousand pardons for not posting anything in forever. You have to admit though, that Paul Lynde/Girl in the D graphic is pretty entertaining. I hope you enjoyed staring at it for a week.

I'd love to post something substantive, and I'm working on it. But right now I am going to post a follow-up to the brilliant Brenda Dickson "
Welcome to my Home" video I posted in June. If you haven't watched that or are new to the blog, take a looky-loo. It's freaking BRILLIANT.

Equally as brilliant is this parody, by two New York comedians, Julie & Jackie. "
Welcome to Our House."

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Yeah bitches!!

Hey, guess who won the Metro Times Reader's Pick for "Best Local Pop Culture Blog?" Me!

They said: "Here's SupergayDetroit's self-description of what his blog's all about: "Documenting one upwardly mobile, 30-something man's fight to find the kind of gay life every good homo deserves. In Detroit." Hey, good luck with that."

What an awesome write-up - I'm glad they took the time to at least read the description. Thanks for the good wishes MT!

Anyway, isn't this exciting? Well, probably more for me than for you. But this is a victory for all of us! Thanks to everyone for voting for me!


Monday, October 15, 2007

Guest Blogger: Woodward's Friend

Supergay Detroit is pleased to present our first guest blogger. "Woodward's Friend" is this guy I know (sorry, no other biographical information available). He wrote me with this compelling tale of gay triumph over modiocrity.

Dear Supergay Forum,

I never thought this would happen to me ...

About two months ago I had a craving for a big plate of buffalo wings. It's a straight guy thing - you wouldn't understand. Unfortunately I was over near Macomb Mall and the only place with with decent wings in the God-forsaken hellhole that is the Gratiot corridor is Hooters.

Here's the thing about Hooters: the food is good, but unless you haven't been laid in the last 36 months the waitrons are less than useless. Usually they aren't that hot and they wear these creepy kevlar pantyhose. They are always dumb as a sack of doorknobs. Worse, they insist on trying to strike up a conversation with you. I guess the duller members of our society assume that they can score a date with a talkative waitress and therefore order more shit. The problem of course is all of that disingenuous flirting ruins what could be an otherwise enjoyable dining experience.

Not real Hooters girls, but real kevlar pantyhose.
This is the last time you will see anything this straight and trashy on this blog.

Anyway, I bite the bullet and go to Hooters. It's a Saturday afternoon, I've got a New York Times, there was a baseball game on the big-screen, and a giant plate of wings sitting in front of me. Could I enjoy any of it? Good Lord no because every five minutes Jeni or Mandi or Tiffani has to stop by my table and "chat." Fucking-A these bitches wouldn't leave me alone. Apparently they all have to sign a cocktail napkin on your table with a sharpie - dotting the obligatory i at the end of their name with a heart. I'm still not sure what I was supposed to do with the signature napkin. Take it home and beat off into it? Not bloody likely. I've got better ways to abuse myself thanks to YouPorn.

So when Tiffani sauntered over for her obligatory 90 seconds of pretend flirting I'd had enough. When she asked "what brings you out today hun?" I replied, with a straight face and mouth full of chicken meat, "well my boyfriend is out of town so I get to eat what I want." Poor Tiffani had no idea what to say after that. Gay men at Hooters? In Macomb County? Good golly, a bona fide sodomite in an upstanding family restaurant like Hooters! Horror of horrors!

It may have been my finest hour. All the little couldn't-cut-it-as-a-real-stripper bimbo waitrons stayed away and I was able to enjoy my wings and New York Times in peace. It was wonderful and I thank homosexuality for making it all possible. So thank you gays. I hope its ok if I continue to pretend to be one of you at Hooters or equally ridiculous places that happen to serve tasty crap food like buffalo wings. And Supergay next time you're at the gay bar stuck in a dead end conversation with some douchey guy, give me a call. I'll pump you full of all the useless sports information you'll need to drive the douche away.

Woodwards Friend
Detroit, Michigan

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Soundtrack of Your Coming Out

Today is National Coming Out Day! Celebrate!

No, I am not going to divulge my identity, a subject recently referred to by someone as "the worst-kept secret in Detroit."

But I am going reminisce a bit about my coming out, an occasion that took place twenty years ago this week. Oh, the adolescent melodrama! The tortured anxiety of it all! Man, those were good times, staying in on a Friday night freshman year in college, thinking about how I would instantly land a boyfriend and find a community of friends as soon as I was able to publicly admit I was a homo! As it turns out, not so much. Hell, it took me a year to even hook up with someone (see previous post).

It all may have sucked at the time, but in retrospect there is a rosy glow over that period. And there is no way to recapture the thoughts and feelings of an era than to reflect on the music you were listening to.

Soft Cell's "
Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret" was stumbled upon by accident. If you're only familiar with "Tainted Love" then you need to explore the total weird excellence of this album. It's one of those albums that's a bit of a narrative, something you don't run across quite as much anymore. This one's about an exploration of an alternative sexual world, back when doing so involved more than logging online. "Seedy Films," "Sex Dwarf," and "Say Hello, Say Good-bye" are highlights but the entire album (which I am listening to right now, on the same damn vinyl I listened to twenty years ago) is amazing. At the time, it was a soundtrack of being a sexual deviant. Today, it's a fond remembrance of being a sexual deviant.

Bronski Beat, on the other hand, sang openly of the very real fear and hatred of gay people that existed in the 80's. Singing "You and me together / fighting for our love" seems just a touch melodramatic now, but man oh man, it didn't (and wasn't) at the time. New songs and brilliant reinterpretations of old songs ("It Ain't Necessarily So") cried out with the voice of the oppressed gay person.

Bronski Beat is also the soundtrack to my visits back to Detroit during college, after hanging out with high school friends and the ex-girlfriend I hadn't come out to yet, driving on the freeway and thinking about going to Backstreet. Melancholy, but uplifting. There is a scene in the gay independent film "Parting Glances" (starring Steve Buscemi, and HIGHLY recommended for an amazing glimpse at gay life in the AIDS era circa mid 1980's) where they are going to a gay bar and Bronski Beat is playing, and it just totally captures a gay moment of the time.

The Pet Shop Boys also factored in, although they had yet to voice their gay identity openly. But come on, who didn't at least speculate? Nothing overtly gay or sexual, just REINVENTING FUCKING DUSTY SPRINGFIELD. Genius.

And then ... and then there are the songs from the gay bar. I finally started venturing out to them starting spring break. My first one? Backstreet, with aforementioned ex-girlfriend and straight high school best friend. Cuz you know, the music was great and their friends were going.

Well once back at school it all kicked in with the new gay best friend (who persists to this day, although not locally. Hi Lance!). The most embarrassing of 12" singles made it into my collection, a remembrance of nights at the gay dance club. Rick Astley "Never Gonna Give You Up," Natalie Cole "Pink Cadillac," Taylor Dayne (!) "Prove Your Love," Depeche Mode "Behind the Wheel/Route 66." Oh the good times and bad fashions of early 1988! And all captured on vinyl ...

And this wouldn't be complete without a mention of the soundtrack to "
Maurice," the Merchant-Ivory adaptation of the E. M. Forster novel (which was published after his death in 1971). The weekend I worked up the nerve to tell my first friend that I was gay (she yawned), I spent the next few days reading that novel and then going to see the movie. It was probably my first super gay weekend.

What a time that was. ACT UP was in their ascendancy, Queer Nation was about to make their debut. There was no "Will & Grace" popular acceptance of gays and lesbians. It was a time of gay activism, and a whole generation of gay men was desperately fighting for their lives. There were no antiretroviral drugs, there were no drug cocktails to keep HIV at bay. So much was awful and frankly, when I stop and think about it all, it breaks my heart.

I do know this is when the activist part of me was formed. I didn't see the worst of it, and yet I did see the handsome owner of the designer consignment store end up in a wheelchair, a shadow of his former self. I did see angry young men on the streets with picket signs demanding more AIDS funding. I did see a kiss-in. I did see people sitting, panicking, waiting for their HIV test results.

It's why I won't accept that things are great for gay people now, just because you can live in NYC or SF without hassle. It's why I believe that gay marriage - as much as I could personally give a shit - is a matter of fundamental fairness and should be fought for much more aggressively than it is. It's why I am tired of gay people not fighting back harder against the anti-gay (not simply "pro family") agenda of the right wing.

I don't mean to detract from the cotton candy fluffiness that is usually Supergay Detroit, but anniversaries demand reflection. I am pretty sure I don't live in a different world from the rest of the Michigan gay community, but sometimes it feels that way. That is why I so strongly require my life to be in Detroit, not Oakland County. I need to connect with gay spheres that are not my own. And I need to feel like people still seek something better, not the status quo.

The soundtrack of today is the blog post of the future, so let's hope it is as inspiring as it is entertaining. Acceptance for gay lifestyles is important, but it saddens me to think that a collective gay identity may be lost. I worry that right now "fitting in" matters more in our gay community than "being yourself."

I just wonder when we can simply be ourselves? Embrace our gay heritage, our gay culture, our gay identity. And still be accepted. Shouldn't that be the goal?

Anyway, the activist gets away from me again ... what from your coming out inspires you? What is your coming out soundtrack? I'm genuinely interested to hear.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

It's a small gay world after all

Last night I attended a lovely dinner party at the home of some new gay friends. They live in an amazingly beautiful historic Arts & Crafts home they've been restoring here in the CoD. It is one of those places that exist noplace else in the area, grand scale in the rooms, amazing architectural details ... I almost needed a private moment when they showed me the fabulous ceramic landscape in their Rookwood tile fireplace.

The dinner was an occasion to entertain a friend of theirs visiting from Cincinnati. It was a lovely group - frankly, much classier than I am. I had to make every effort to keep my lip zipped and not embarrass myself, which is harder than you could possibly imagine. Cocktails were delicious and scintillating conversation ensued as I became acquainted with the group.

Rather than drag this all out with irrelevant details, it turns out their visiting friend looked familiar. Like, very familiar. He stepped out of the room to help in the kitchen so I asked my host where he was from ... born in Dominican Republic ... raised in Puerto Rico ... college in Boston ... ding ding ding! We have a winner!

Soooooo, it turns out ... he's the first guy I ever hooked up with, sophomore year in college.

Now I know it's a small world. And this isn't even the first completely unbelievable small world thing that's happened to me. But I guess I thought maybe I'd be immune from that sort of stuff here in Detroit: Gay population 10.

Funny, and not unwelcome, but it just puts stuff in perspective a little bit. The older I get, the smaller my gay world gets. It's comforting and disturbing, all at once.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Too what?

I don't know if you caught it, but last month's HOUR Detroit did a one-page portrait profile on Craig Covey, gay Ferndale uber politician and possibly their next mayor. That's a pretty nice inclusive thing to do, don't you think?

Until you get to the end, where they ask Craig, "If you become mayor, will that make Ferndale 'too gay'?"

Excuse me? Too gay? What the hell does that mean, and why would that even be a perceived problem?

Would someone say "Is Detroit too black?" or "Is West Bloomfield too Jewish?"

They might, but we'd call them bigots.

Here's a REAL timekiller

Oh my God, I just lost a day and a half of my life playing this stupid game. It's called Bubble Shooter.

There really isn't anything gay about it, especially some of those color combinations (seriously, who includes aqua and Christmas red in the same color scheme?). But gay and straight people alike will experience a level of workday escapism that surpasses even Spider Solitaire.
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